Spotlight’s Inclusion program exists to allow children with special needs to explore the performing arts in a safe, nurturing and loving environment.
Thanks to a grant from the Illinois Arts Council students will be able to enroll in drama, voice, dance, musical theater and other specialty classes. In addition to the classes, students ages 8-18 will be eligible to audition for that county's musical production. Students needing extra assistance will be provided for. Classes are currently available in DuPage, Kane, McHenry, Northwest Cook, Lake and Winnebago counties.
We are also looking for enthusiastic volunteers who have a heart for these kids to assist in making this program successful.
Questions and Answers
Q: What IS the Inclusion program?
The Inclusion program makes provisions for students with special needs to participate in Spotlight camps, classes and shows. It is NOT a specials needs program designed specifically to cater to special needs, but rather an opportunity to mainstream high functioning special needs students. Students in the Inclusion program learn alongside all the other students!
Q: Who can participate in the Inclusion program?
Any child is welcomed. However, the program is most successful for higher functioning, verbal children aged 4-18. If the child is in regular classes at school, that is a good indicator that they will be able to be successful in the Spotlight program. The child should be able to participate in a group, be non-disruptive, non-violent and verbal. They should also be able to follow simple directions and be able to be quiet for periods of time.
Q: What types of provisions are made for special needs students?
It depends on the students. Special needs students, even with the same challenge, are vastly different & unique. We will work with you on your child’s needs. In most cases, special needs students are assimilated into regular programming and no special accommodations are needed. We make the teacher/counselor aware so they can alter their teaching style for your student. Occasionally, we provide an additional teen aide for the student so they have more one-on-one assistance. We also adjust participation requirements for these students. For example, a student with Downs Syndrome may be able to pace in the classroom during a game rather than participating, or an autistic student may be allowed a few minutes of “quiet time” if needed. We try to be sensitive to each child’s needs and work with them. *Please note that we are not equipped to handle high levels of special needs, non-oral medications or diapering/colostomy bags. If you would like to discus your child’s needs, please contact the Spotlight office.
Q: What are the goals of the Inclusion program?
Ultimately, we want every special needs student to feel valued and loved. We want them to be seen as the “same” as every other kid. We do not draw attention to their challenges, but rather celebrate each child’s uniqueness. We want special needs students to feel normal, welcomed, and loved. Parents of high-functioning special needs students love this program because it is not a special needs program, but a place where their child is safe while being seen and treated the same as their non-special needs classmates.
Q: Who teaches the Inclusion program?
Our normal Spotlight teachers/counselors instruct all our students including Inclusion students. Our staff members are interviewed, background checked, posses a degree and/or experience in a performing arts field, and are excellent with children. While they are not trained specifically in special needs, they have a heart and passion to teach and care for any type of child.
Q: Who are the Inclusion aides and is there an additional cost?
Typically, our aides are older Spotlight students, sometimes adults, who have proven a level of responsibility and trustworthiness in our program. There is not an additional cost for a one-on-one aide. If you feel that your child requires that additional assistance, please contact the office.
Q: What types of special needs have you had in the Inclusion program?
We have seen a variety of special needs including spina bifida, Downs, autism, sight/hearing impairment, physical handicaps, dwarf syndrome, severe learning disabilities just to name a few.
Q: What if my child needs high-level care or provisions?
In some rare cases, we allow a parent, nurse or caregiver to be present to provide care where the Spotlight staff is not equipped to handle a special needs case. Such examples would include breathing devices, seizure disorders, non-traditional bathroom assistance or non-oral medication. Ultimately, our concern is for your child’s safety and well-being. Therefore, we do not want to accept special needs cases that we are not equipped or trained to handle. Please contact the office to discuss these types of situations. If your child has special needs that we are not able to accommodate, we recommend checking out NISRA programming.
Q: If my child functions at a lower age level, can they take a younger class?
At this time, we do not allow Inclusion students to take classes or camps outside of their actual age bracket.
Q: Which class should my child take?
Our Education Director or Inclusion Coordinator are happy to discus which class will be best for your child’s needs based on teacher qualifications and class content. While any class (in their age bracket) is open to your child, we want them to be as successful as possible, and some classes will better achieve that goal than others. Typically, single discipline classes (drama, voice or dance) are a good choice.
Q: Do Inclusion students perform?
YES! Our Inclusion students perform alongside the rest of the class in showcase. However, we do have different expectations for special needs students. We realize that most Inclusion students will be able to perform the entire showcase just like their peers, while for others, just getting up on stage is a HUGE victory. We celebrate every student’s success, whether that is performing full out, or standing on the edge of the stage smiling!
Q: Can Inclusion students audition for the productions?
Yes. We love to have Inclusion students audition. Please note on their audition form that they are an Inclusion/special needs student. Inclusion students are judged a bit differently in auditions, and we do hold them to a different measure. We do not guarantee their casting, however, we look at a few factors in casting Inclusion students:
Did the student come prepared?
Is there a role where this student can be successful and safe?
Did the student perform their audition to the best of their own ability level?
Does this student have some level of performing ability? (singing, dancing, acting, special talents etc)
Will this student be able to function well within a group?
For more questions about auditions, please contact the office.
Q: What type of information do I need to provide for my student?
We realize that some parents are hesitant to provide details on their child’s challenges for fear that they will be singled out or treated differently. This is simply not the case at Spotlight. On the registration page, there is a “special needs” box. Please provide us as many details as you can on your child! We want to know everything from their unique challenges to how they are encouraged/praised and feel loved. The more information you give us, the better. We see this information as being the #1 tool to equip us to help us meet your child where they are at. The information is 100% confidential and is shared with our Area Coordinator, the Inclusion Coordinator and your child’s instructor only.
Q: Can I discuss my child’s special needs with their teacher before class/camp?
Absolutely! We are happy to provide contact information for your child’s teacher prior to class. Just contact the Area Coordinator and they will assist you.
Q: I’m not sure how my child will be in this group. What happens if it doesn’t work out?
Typically, we do no refunds after the 2nd week of classes, and camps are non-refundable. However, we recognize that Inclusion students sometimes are unpredictable and may have different reactions than anticipated. If you, the teacher and Area Coordinator feels that the program is simply not working for your child, we will be happy to do a partial refund. Refund requests must be approved through the office.
Q: Do you ever have a problem with bullying or teasing of special needs students?
The short answer is no. Our students are wonderful, loving, compassionate kids. They are what make Spotlight such a special place and our Inclusion program successful. Typically, other students are eager to learn about their Inclusion friends and assist them in any way possible. We find that Inclusion students often make many friends quickly. However, if any teasing or rude behavior does occur, an adult addresses it immediately. At Spotlight, we focus on theater as well as building character in the students. Mistreating any other child is not tolerated.
Q: Do you have to be a Christian to come to Spotlight?
No. We are a Christian organization and we invite you to check out our mission & values! However, we welcome all children, regardless of religious affiliation. We are not a church, a youth group or a Sunday school but rather a Christian theater group.
For more information contact the office at .